Japan and the United States on May 10 will hold the inaugural meeting of a government-business forum under a new framework for bilateral economic talks, a U.S. trade official said Tuesday.

Measures to accelerate the restructuring of Japanese companies will be high on the agenda at the meeting in Japan of the Private Sector/Government Commission.

“We agreed on the topics of corporate revitalization and increasing productivity,” the official said.

The private-public meeting will be preceded May 9 by a sub-Cabinet-level meeting under the framework known as the Economic Partnership for Growth, the U.S. official said.

A Japanese official said the meetings will take place in Chiba.

The new economic partnership initiative was launched in June by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush to promote sustainable economic growth in both countries and the world by addressing issues such as sound macroeconomic policies, structural reforms and foreign direct investment.

The Japanese members of the government-business forum include Honda Motor Co. Chairman Yoshihide Munekuni, Toshiba Corp. Chairman Taizo Nishimuro and NTT DoCoMo Inc. President Keiji Tachikawa.

The U.S. members include Pixelworks Inc. Chairman Allen Alley, Christopher Kay, executive vice president of Toys “R” Us Inc., and John Thain, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president.

The sub-Cabinet-level meeting, meanwhile, follows an inaugural session held in Washington in October. It is intended to set the direction of the new initiative by exchanging views on a wide range of bilateral, regional and multilateral economic and trade issues.

It will be chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Shotaro Oshima and Gary Edson, deputy national security adviser.

Apple dispute panel

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States will soon ask the World Trade Organization to set up a panel to settle a dispute with Japan over its quarantine system for imported apples, a U.S. trade official said Tuesday.

“Unless progress is made immediately, I think it’s likely we will be resorting to a panel,” the official said.

On March 1, the U.S. filed a request with the WTO for bilateral consultations with Japan, arguing that Tokyo’s inspection procedures on imported apples for fire blight are too strict and violate the WTO sanitary and phytosanitary pact.

If the two countries fail to resolve the issue via bilateral talks within 60 days of the consultation request, the U.S. can seek the creation of a dispute settlement body under WTO rules.

In response to Washington’s request, Japan held talks with the U.S. on April 19 in Geneva under the auspices of the WTO but failed to resolve the issue.

Fire blight, which is harmless to humans, is a highly contagious disease that afflicts apples and pears and is caused by a plant-eating bacterium.

It is present in some parts of the U.S., New Zealand and some other countries but has not been found in Japan.

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